Wednesday, November 30, 2011

End of the Month View ~ November 2011

Hydrangea 'Limelight' by the backyard fence
November has been a busier one in the garden and, having thoroughly enjoyed it, I am sad to see it coming to an end. The fall is such a forgiving time to be in the garden up rooting things, tinkering here and there, creating new schemes that no one else will know about until next year.  And of course there were the bulbs.

It has been a beautiful fall, very warm and temperate. A cold front is blowing in this evening and we are expected to have a little snow tomorrow.  Knowing the changing weather was coming motivated me to get out in the breeze this afternoon for some more seedling thinning and weeding. My fingers were freezing, but it was really nice to be out!
Hill Garden on Thanksgiving Day
Edging out another foot of sod from the front of the garden beds made for plenty of labor at the beginning of the month. I love a clean edge at this time of year, as well as in the spring. It does not always happen, but I enjoy it when it does. I planted more creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) in the new area, as I really like it as an edging plant. It is evergreen, which is probably my favorite reason for growing it besides its flowers in May.
Allium tuberosum on the Hill
The Circle Lawn
 Much of my seedling thinning is happening on the Shade Path (the area near the gate in the photo above), and in the curb planting strips across the sidewalk. Columbine (Aquilegia) and forget-me-nots (Mysotis) seedlings are everywhere.

Clematis 'Fairy Dust' still hanging on to a few last flowers
Cherry Corner garden
This picture does a great job showcasing the improvement that can be made in daylily (Hemerocallis) foliage by pruning it after flowering. The large green clump was pruned to the ground with hedge shears, while the pile at the lower left corner was not. Quite the difference.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' under the weeping Cherry tree
I love how it brings out the red in the Cherry bark
View of the Shade Path to the back of our property
The evergreens are coming in to their own. Most moments the garden is looking more brown and black, but there are a few of those sunny moments left that illuminate the left over color. Here at the front is that famous pair again, Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and native aster Doellingeria unbellata. I spend a couple afternoons edging out some more sod from the beds on this side of the garden also. I filled in mostly with Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevan's Variety'.
Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
New Curb strip planting from May
 More plant filling work in the new curb areas, hoping to make spring a little easier. The hillside by the fence is finally starting to look like something after three-and-a-half years. I am going for a tapestry effect, just throwing all sorts of plants at it hoping something will grow. The Ajuga reptans at the back seems to be fitting the bill.

Thanks to Helen at The Patient Gardener for hosting the End of the Month View. I love how her posts walk through the garden, taking stock of improvements, etc. So, here is my first go at her concept.

The best tree on our property...

Our Thankful tree from November
I had to take a few pictures to share before we took down our Thankful tree this week. My kids have loved this activity for November, and it has been infinitely enjoyable seeing what things come out of their hearts and minds. They woke up most mornings saying, "We need to do our thankful tree! We need to do our thankful tree!" But I think it was really me who took the most from it: a gentle reminder every morning not to take our life for granted, even with all of its twists and turns, sticky hands and dirty laundry. Everything is a gift from the Lord God after all.

We planted it in the living room by the girls door
You can guess my favorites :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Simple Bulb Planting Tips

As I worked on planting our 800 new bulbs this fall, I thought about a few tips I use and thought another lover-of-spring might find them useful.

There are two ways to plant a quantity of bulbs: many in larger holes or singly in smaller holes. I think the choice should be made based on the effect you desire in a given location. At the moment, I tend to like grouping my larger bulbs (tulips, muscari) and plant smaller bulbs singly (crocuses, iris reticulata).

If you decide to plant in larger holes, then I have found it useful to mark the bulb locations with plant stakes. Then stand back and take a look at what you have marked.
Small plant stakes mark the new bulb locations
Small plant stakes mark the new bulb locations
This is all about visualization: think back to your garden in April and May (pictures are a huge help!), think about the colors, the forms, what was lacking. Where do you want these bulbs to live? Move your stakes around as you look at it from different angles.

 Once you have decided where they will live, it is time to commit and start digging. When planting in the midst of an already full garden bed, maneuvering the excess dirt becomes one of the biggest problems. My favorite way to solve this problem is by using a piece of plastic to hold the dirt.
Plastic holding the planting dirt
Using plastic enables me to even place it on top of my lower perennials (in this case creeping phlox). Another benefit is that if I happen to dig up some old bulbs in the process of planting new ones, I will see them left on the plastic instead of losing them on top of the dirt somewhere. And when I am done placing the bulbs, I can pick up the plastic and dump the fill right back in the hole with one motion.

Japanese knife planting crocuses in tree roots
Japanese knife made quick work of planting 100 crocuses in the Front Woodland
And when it comes to planting bulbs singly, especially small bulbs (though I also planted a few tulips this way), my Japanese soil knife made it swift work even amongst tree roots.  I think that planting some of the bulbs closer together gives it a more naturalized look, even while you are covering a larger area.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Japanese Anemone Seed Fluffs

I was out taking pictures one morning this November and took these views of the Japanese anemone seeds in the Front Walk...
The seed heads of Japanese Anemone
Anemones with a maple leaf they caught on its way down
 Just a couple of hours later,  I happened to be chasing the kids around the house and found them all fluffed out in the sun...
All fluffed out in the sun a couple hours later
Fluffy seeds of Japanese Anemone
Of course, they were soon strew about the place as the kids went to work enjoying how their cotton-like seeds carry on the November wind.  And I over heard my little Anna, as she and her sister grasped clumps of fluff and gingerly tucked it into the nearby soil, "We are just like real gardeners, Grace!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In praise of my Japanese Soil Knife

Japanese Soil Knife
When I decided to plant 200 grape hyacinths (Muscari 'Ocean Magic') in the curb strip, I assumed I would do it in large groups of 10 bulbs per hole. The more I thought about it, I realized that I wanted more of an even covering of blooms, especially since the serviceberry trees (Amelanchier canadensis) should be blooming above the muscari.  But, two hundred individual holes sounded like a daunting task, even for me.

Personally, I am not a fan of those little round bulb planters. And I can imagine the bulb augers they sell to fit a corded drill would work splendidly. Firstly though, I would need to buy a corded drill and this attachment. But as it turns out, I did not need any fancy, specialized equipment at all, because of my dearest garden tool: the Japanese soil knife (also called a Hori Hori knife or a garden knife).

This is definitely the one garden tool that I would want on my desert island. One edge is serrated (for dividing), one edge a smooth blade (for more dividing), the end pointy (poking out small seedlings, pulling out tap roots or rocks), a side notch (cutting wire) and curved to scoop like a trowel. This tool does it all. (Well, maybe no bush planting... though it is great for slicing around those bound root balls before you plunk the bush in its hole!) And you can be sure about the depth of your planting holes because this particular knife has measurement markings on its scoop (opposite the side pictured above).

In the end, it took me less than an hour to plant all 200 muscari in the curb strip, plus I had a huge pot of weeded out dandelions also to show for my effort.

I could write "An Ode to my Knife", but I will spare you that much.
Let me just say that I just hope some time soon you get to experience this tool too!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day ~ November 2011

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake'
For Foliage Day, I saved up all of the photos I have from this month that display the changing colors in our zone 5 Pennsylvania garden. We have had a particularly dry November, which has meant that the leaves have stayed on the trees and bushes longer than normal. Once the frost hit, the leaves began into their color change and we had the opportunity to enjoy it step-by-step over a couple of weeks instead of in a few days.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake' (above) is newly planted in the Shade Path. It has wonderful autumn color. It can be seen in its diminutive size at the very right in the photo below.

One thing I am really enjoying is seen how the evergreens around the house begin to pop when surrounded by the yellows, reds and oranges. The small rounded green bushes in in the pachysandra are actually forsythias, which have kept their leaves much longer than the other deciduous bushes (note the mock orange, Philadelphus, on the right in yellow leaf).  I have been clipping them hard to retain their shape in this small area, which I know is a horror to some gardeners. But at the time of planting their price was right (since they grew from cuttings tended on our apartment window sill for years), and I really like the added yellow they give to the spring display in April. So, I will probably go on clipping until we are no longer tending/living at this garden; then we will have to do something drastic.

View across the Front Walk with the fluffy seed heads from Japanese Anemones
I love the Spirea 'Goldflame' in all seasons. It has red/orange buds nearly all winter, explodes with color in May, and still looks good in the Front Walk in November with the fluffy white seed heads of Japanese Anemone
Topiary Alberta spruce in front of blazing Euonymus alatus, a known invasive
Spirea 'Goldflame' and Japanese Anemone
Gray skeleton of Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spire') and seed heads of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
A glimpse of the foliage on the Hill Garden, which is still looking very alive this month (see more in GBBD).

Euonymus alatus, a known invasive, drops its leaves for the year
Yellow vibrancy of the weeping cherry (Prunus) in Cherry Corner
Just days later, the Prunus is stripped of its leaves for the year
Hydrangea quercifolia
The differing purple tint of this native oakleaf hydrangea bush contrasts with the one planted at the other end of the Shade Path garden. 
Native aster turning with Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevans Variety' by the fence
Forsythia under planted with wood spurge
Lastly, a punch of color from our forsythia in the Front Woodland. It looks great under planted with Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, know as Mrs. Robb's bonnet.

Happy Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day
Thanks to Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides for hosting on the 22nd of each month.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Our Red-Bellied Woodpecker

I remember the excitement when we first heard that usual call. Then we were stunned by his brilliant red cap. He continued to come once every couple of months, eating the suet and sunflower seeds that we provided for all of our birds. It was always fun to see him swooping in to snack on the refreshments.

This fall, at least two years after spying his first visit, he has become a regular visitor. A daily regular.

Video: Red-Bellied Woodpecker at Gilmore Gardens
(click here to view from email)

Red-bellied Woodpeckers,  so called for the small rusty patch underneath, live all over the eastern US in wooded areas.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Clematis 'Fairy Dust' in November

Clematis 'Fairy Dust'
Clematis 'Fairy Dust', was added to one of the trellises around the Circle Lawn in May. It, with help from the four other new vines that month, brought the total Clematis count at Gilmore Gardens to eleven.
Clematis 'Fairy Dust' on trellis closest to Shade Path
I sited it as best I could to suit a baby Clematis: rich, well-drained and well-mulched soil, its roots in the shade and narrow bars to grab a hold of with its wrists as it reaches for the full sun over head.

Clematis 'Fairy Dust' is expected to reach 10-12 feet, hardy zones 4-8 and usually blooms in early summer...
But this year, it has given me flowers in November; a rare treat indeed!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ November 2011

The Hill Garden in November
Welcome to Gilmore Gardens in November!
 We have come through frost and snow to emerge with one more bloom post for the year. It is highly unlikely there will be many flowers for December. But for now, I am immensely enjoying the autumn season this year in our garden and our last moments in the (remaining) sun.
View across the Front Walk to the Hill
Late-fall is full of sedums, roses, foxgloves (yes, Digitalis)... and one more surprise you will find as you read along.  The seed heads, colorful leaves and few grasses do not hurt either. Actually, I love them at this time almost better than the flowers, most of which I have seen already in another part of the year. But, Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day is not until the 22nd at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides.

Faded Allium tuberosum viewed from the sidewalk
Looking at the Hill Garden from the sidewalk affords you a view of the Allium tuberosum in its autumnal state, dancing along the now deep-rose colored Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and pop pink Rosa 'The Fairy', all under planted with silvery soft lamb's ears (Stachys byzantine).  These plants have been fabulous partners for months in this sunny and well-drained garden.  Allium tuberosum, which is easy to grow from seed, blooms white in September.
View from the driveway of the Hill
On the opposite side of the Hill we can see pink Rosa 'The Fairy' in front. It's first flush was in June/July. These flowers are wonderfully refreshing at this time of year when everything is in decay. But then, it is decay in the form of changing foliage color and seed heads (like purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea) that make this such a different experience than even October.  

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' may be an overused plant, but there are several reason why that is so! It looks fresh in the heat of August when many early-season plants look a little tired; it has a three part color change beginning with light pink in September, to medium in October, to deep-rose in November. And I have not yet met a member of the Sedum family that was not incredibly easy to propagate yourself; simply break off a piece and tuck it in soil. 

Vivid tones of purple barberry bush (Berberis thunbergii)
At the opposite corner of our front-yard garden is Cherry Corner, named for the weeping cherry tree we planted there three years ago. Under the tree we have a planting that ends with Sedum 'Autumn Joy', following a succession of daffodils, daylilies, annuals and black-eyed susans (various yellow Rudbeckia mixed).
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' with fading Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola').
If you peek behind the Cherry tree in the above photo, you will see the home of our November flowering surprise...
Trellis around the Circle Lawn with Clematis 'Fairy Dust'
Clematis 'Fairy Dust' was added to the Circle Lawn in the spring. It did not bloom earlier in the season, as it was busy getting established. So this late and unexpected mini-show was fun to come across just as I was out taking pictures of the frost. I love it when the garden I have worked to create surprises me instead.
Clematis 'Fairy Dust' in a November sunset
(Do you suppose it is the rose in the Hill Garden that is responsible for this Clematis' appearance? It is Rosa 'The Fairy' and this is Clematis 'Fairy Dust' after all...We need the fairies to encourage us in our Pennsylvania November.)

View from the Circle Lawn to the Shade Path... color enhanced only by the sunset.
The Shade Path seen from the sidewalk
And lastly, those foxgloves just will not stop on the Shade Path. The annuals and hostas were torn out weeks ago, the native aster is faded, but the yellow perennial foxgloves (Digitalis grandiflora) just keep going. I am so glad that I remembered to cut them back after they flowered! Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) stands by the silver maple tree at left in the above photo.
Yellow perennial foxgloves (Digitalis grandiflora)

Thank you again to Carol at May Dreams for hosting GBBD on the 15th of every month!

I recommend spending a few indulgent moments - with a cup of tea as a requirement - perusing through the long list of amazing gardens from around the world. I am looking forward to seeing some spring/summer photos from blogging friends in Australia! (I am perpetually waiting for spring; a hopeless spring romantic.)

Happy November to your part of the world!
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